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How to Motivate Lazy Teenagers

By Kathryn Hatter ; Updated June 13, 2017

Teens often have inherently different goals and desires from adults, making it difficult to see eye to eye with your laid-back adolescent. When your youngster doesn’t pick up the pace at your standards, it can be tempting to label him as “lazy” and proceed with some strong behavior modification to whip him into shape. A better approach might be zeroing in on the things that motivate him to encourage an enthusiastic and enterprising attitude.

  1. Explore the basis of the lack of motivation with your adolescent, advises the Fulshear Ranch Academy, a therapeutic ranch in Texas designed to meet the needs of struggling young women. Rather than just making a negative assumption about your teen, ask questions to find out whether your child might struggle with a fear of failure, depression, anxiety, a physical ailment or substance abuse.

  2. Resolve any problems once you gain some understanding about what’s going on with your teen. Call your physician if your teen has a physical ailment. Seek therapeutic assistance if your teen suffers from depression, anxiety or substance abuse.

  3. Ask questions to find out what motivates your teen. Instead of focusing on extrinsic motivation -- offering rewards or threatening to remove privileges -- focus on intrinsic motivation, advises Psychology Today. Intrinsic motivation is the stuff that lies within your teen -- the dreams, desires, and interests that fuel her actions and behaviors. An example of intrinsic motivation might be a teen who suddenly cleans the house because her new boyfriend is stopping by later in the day. Extrinsic motivation generally does not last, whereas intrinsic motivation is self-motivation, so it stays more stable.

  4. Mold intrinsic motivation once you learn details about what fuels your teenager. For example, a passion for baseball might require high grades to ensure continued play time and hopes of a scholarship. A teen who loves dance might also need to focus on grades to ensure that she gets into the school of performing arts of her choice. Explain the connection between your teen’s inner desires and performing in other ways to help her understand why she needs to work hard.

  5. Find sources of inspiration for your teen that fit with his intrinsic motivations, advises Torey Richards, licensed mental health counselor. People pursuing the same goals who are slightly ahead of your teen could be powerful inspiration to help him stay energized and focused on goals.

  6. Maintain a solid connection with your teen to help facilitate motivation and forward movement. She likely needs ongoing support and guidance, especially when she starts becoming more motivated. Communicate daily, listening as necessary, to help your teen feel comfortable confiding in you.

  7. Provide opportunities for your teen to take control and make positive choices about motivation. Instead of threatening or trying to force your teen to comply to your wishes, communicate a requirement in a way that enables your youngster to make a decision. You might say “Remember that you need to mow the lawn today. Whenever you finish, you’re free to meet up with your friends.”

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